If you dread going to the supermarket because you know it’s going to take a large chunk out of your budget, there are ways to reduce that stress — without ever clipping a coupon.
While coupons save you money (that’s if you’re not buying more than you actually need; those buy-two-get-one-at-X-cents off coupons are a trap), finding, clipping, and organising them can be consuming.
If you don’t have the time to fuss with coupons, there are still ways that you can preemptively reduce the cost of your bill at checkout. Here are seven for you to consider.
1. Buy Perishables on Sale and Freeze
Before you head to the market, check the weekly circular to see what’s on sale — especially items that are generally pricey and perishable items that you can freeze to save for later. Meats and seafood, specifically, are high-cost items that you can buy in bulk when on sale and freeze; this way you’ll have it on hand, and you won’t be forced to by it at full price on a whim. A trick that I like to use to cut down on time too, is to cook a lot of grilled chicken one day a week, slice it up, and pop it into the fridge or freezer. By doing this, you’ll have part of a healthy meal ready to go when you get home from work, ultimately freeing up your evening to do more of what you want instead of standing over a hot stove. Just throw the chicken in a wrap or salad and enjoy.
2. Shop the Clearance Section
Most supermarkets have a clearance section with items that are damaged. Dented canned goods comprise most of this section (do you really care if the can is dented?), but you can find boxed items that have been opened (make sure the contents inside are still sealed) and perishable items, like bread, that may be nearing expiration. Just don’t go overboard. Just because something is on super sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Make sure you’re going to use it; otherwise it’s just a waste of money.
3. Try to Waste Less
Do you often have leftovers after a meal? That can be a good thing — and a bad thing. It’s good if you plan to eat those leftovers the next night or incorporate them into a new meal. But if your leftovers sit in the fridge until they spoil, you’re throwing money in the trash. If this is a common problem for you, be conscious of how much you’re cooking from the beginning. Portion your meals accordingly. Only make what you intend to eat so you’re not tossing out perfectly good food that you paid for.
4. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
What’s the benefit of planning meals ahead of time? There are at least two. First, planning meals helps you create a list of ingredients you need so you’re not going to the grocery store without a plan. Secondly, by knowing what you’re going to have for dinner and having the ingredients in the fridge, you’re less likely to order out when you get home because you can’t decide what to cook. We all know how often that happens.
5. Use What’s Already in Your Pantry
We have a tendency to buy new groceries when we still have perfectly good pantry items sitting there. Before you head to the market, take inventory of what’s in your pantry and try to use those items before shopping. Another trick to employ to ensure that your pantry items don’t spoil is to bring the oldest items to the front and put the newest items in the back. If you keep pushing what’s already in your pantry behind the new food that you stock in there, you’re increasing the chances that the older items will expire before you get to them.
6. Go to the Market with a Budget (And a Calculator)
You should have a list, of course — and stick to it — but it’s also wise to set a budget before you head to the market. Bring a calculator with you too so you can keep track along the way to make sure you’re not overspending. The best way to stay on budget is to go with cash and leave your plastic cards at home. If you only have a certain amount to spend with no other means to pay if you go over, you’re guaranteed to never spend more than your budget.
7. Change Supermarkets
This is one of those ways to save that I don’t think many people ever entertain. Why? Because we like our routines. We know where everything is at our home market so it’s not intimidating. The problem is, our home market may not be the best one for our wallet. If you have other supermarkets near you, pick up circulars for each of them and compare prices. If you find that one supermarket is consistently less expensive than another, consider making the switch. No sense on paying more for the same products that you can get somewhere else. All it takes is a few minutes of research.